Gabe Fletcher’s Installation Bay Basics
By Chris Collier
An estimated 13.8 million new vehicles were sold in the U.S. in 2022, according to CNBC. The figure represents roughly an 8.5% decline from 2021 and the lowest level since 2011, when sales were recovering from the Great Recession. Even so, that’s nearly 14 million potential clients seeking protection for their prized possessions. How does an industry newcomer capitalize on the opportunity?
“Being consumed by a paint protection film (PPF) installation and truly being involved in the work—you typically experience time travel,” says Gabe Fletcher, owner-operator of Ceramic Pro Pottstown in Pottstown, Pa. “You’ll look at the clock, and it’s 11 a.m. The next thing you know, it’s 3:30 p.m. You ask yourself, ‘Where did the time go?’”
The concept of time is a running joke at Ceramic Pro Pottstown, which did more than $1 million in PPF, ceramic coating and window tint sales in 2022. In addition to racing against the clock, Fletcher says it’s crucial to ensure your workspace is set up for efficiency.
“That means having your film, tables and plot boards set up as well as maintaining a clear floor, so you’re not tripping over things,” Fletcher says. “Ensure that you’ve got tools that are easily accessible—wear a chest rig or a tool belt. Installers end up running back and forth to pick up tools and sprayers. How you prep your workspace and prepare your tools and workflow directly impacts how time is perceived as an installer.”
The Sales Process
A refined sales method is crucial to your bottom line in automotive enhancement and preservation. Fletcher’s sales strategy centers on determining the goals of a particular customer. Is rock chip damage a
concern? Are gloss and shine top priorities? The team takes time to educate customers on PPF and ceramic coatings.
“The process starts with fact-finding, learning of problems and moves into education and budget analysis,” Fletcher explains. “And then there are further qualification questions about the customer’s use of the car—how often they trade cars, whether it’s a daily driver and if it will see inclement weather or road salt.”
Eighty percent of Ceramic Pro Pottstown’s PPF projects incorporate ceramic coatings, leading to taller tickets and satisfied customers. Once the job is secured, it’s crucial to study application methods.
“Always apply PPF first, never on top of a ceramic coating,” Fletcher says. “The ceramic coating will shed the PPF, and it won’t stick; your customer will be upset. I would tell installers to ensure you’ve got a good seal on your edges with the PPF.”
Not all ceramic coatings are built to be applied on top of PPF. Fletcher, who says it’s crucial to use a dedicated PPF coating, uses Ceramic Pro PPF and Vinyl. The product features the following:
“Ceramic Pro PPF & Vinyl was designed as a protective coating for polyurethane film and vinyl. It protects from contamination and weathering resulting in film that is much easier to clean. It also helps reduce vinyl’s orange peel look. The complete protection program involves a base coat and top coat application.
• Super Hydrophobic Effect;
• Weather & UV-Resistance;
• Reduced Orange Peel;
• Less Maintenance;
• Extended Lifespan; and
• High Gloss Finish.”
Let There be Light
Proper lighting is paramount in the world of PPF and ceramic coatings. Just ask Fletcher, who incorporates various illumination modes to achieve an optimal installation.
“It’s important to have both diffused lighting (frosted, covered lighting) and direct-to-lens, LED-style lighting that will reflect off surfaces,” Fletcher says. “Vertical light from the top down is extremely important. It also matters how much lighting you have coming horizontally across the car and how much light your floor reflects.”
You’ve refined your workspace and organized your tools, your sales process is now multi-layered and you understand crucial installation strategies involving PPF /ceramic coating jobs. What about the vibe?Music is the move.
“Installers will put headphones on and be in their zone,” Fletcher says. “A distracted installer—whether through cross-talk or interruptions—is the number one reason you end up with defects in an installation and with a customer who has an issue later. A focused, undistracted installer is the best installer for your business. A distracted installer is a low-quality installer.”
TTP—Time to Proficiency
“If you’re afraid of a car, that car will be a disaster and a nightmare,” Fletcher says. “You’re going to be an anxiety-ridden mess. You’ll obsess over everything on the car if you’re not confident in your installation capabilities. Once you become proficient, you can truly enjoy your work. But you have to grind first.”
Fletcher cites his mentor Jamie Werner when he says an installer achieves proficiency after installing PPF on 40 cars.
“What’s the age-old adage? Ten thousand hours is when you become an expert at something,” Fletcher adds. “Your average installation is four hours. Forty cars equal 160 hours of you squeegeeing film. I can gauge progression based on how frustrated someone is with the installation. As you move down the proficiency pipeline, the amount of frustration you have with film decreases.”
Focus on PPF/CC Blogs
Fletcher is a part of the Focus on PPF/CC e-newsletter, blogging monthly for the publication. He recently shared ten core ideas that his business follows on a daily basis. Here are the first eight points. Follow this link for a free subscription: https://bit.ly/3ZU8NpU
1. Offer Professional-Only Products—This should make sense, right? You want to offer a certified professional product that consumers can’t purchase. This can increase the perceived value of your services as well.
2. Boast Yourself as Insured—There are plenty of fly-by-night detail services. If you can prove that you are insured, this will provide a sense of legitimacy and trust.
3. Showcase Your Facility—Your clients want to know that you are a professional business. Take photos of your finished projects in an area of the shop that is always clean and well-lit. This helps to nail home that you are offering more than just $150 wash-and-wax detailings.
4. Create Content—You must become an educator in your market. If you aren’t creating video and educational content, you will lose to the competitor creating that content. It would help if you were syndicating that content on all of your social media, Reels, TikToks, Google listings, YouTube and embedding it into your website. Our “What’s in the shop?” posts are often some of the most popular.
5. Offer Vehicle Pick-up—This is often how I can charge 35% more than everyone else. I offer to go and pick up the vehicle from the client at their home. Having the correct insurance allows me to offer this. The most significant value for clients looking to spend $5,000 or more with you is their time. If you save them time, they will find more reasons to work with you.
6. Offer an Immediate Follow-up Appointment—We offer our clients a two-week follow-up appointment where we will look over the vehicle and ensure everything is doing what it is supposed to be doing, such as sticking PPF edges. This lets the client know that we care about their vehicle and want to ensure they have a great experience.
7. Always Tout That Quality is Your Most Important Core Value—I often remind my clients that I will ask for more time if I am unhappy with how something came out or was done. They can always appreciate that I am willing to redo something and take my time versus shipping out lousy work.
8. Have a VIP or Referral Program—I am open with my clients in telling them that we will pay big bounties in cash for certain vehicles sent to our shop. This usually consists of big jobs on McLarens, Ferraris and other supercars. People are happy to spread the word when they know they are getting paid.
Meet the Team
Ceramic Pro Pottstown did more than $1 million in sales 2022, and owner-operator Gabe Fletcher had plenty of help. Meet the company’s two primary installers.
“Danik is a refugee from Ukraine and is here as part of the Uniting for
Ukraine program. He previously worked in Moscow, installing PPF for 12 years before coming to the U.S. I showed him a car, the film and he was able to perform a full custom installation—wrapped edges with little to no installation defects with zero training from us whatsoever. Danik is the ultimate version of the American dream.”—Fletcher
“Justin is a certified Ceramic Pro installer and has been doing window tint, ceramic coating and PPF for nearly a decade. He brings tenacity, speed and a relentless pursuit of improving his craft. Justin also shares a love for theSubaru STI platform with me. Both of us have Subaru STIs with 450 wheel horsepower.”—Fletcher
Chris Collier is the editor for PPFMag.
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